RUSSELLVILLE — Deshler struggled to break Sheffield’s full-court zone defense, turnovers piled up and the Tigers saw a 12-point lead evaporate in the fourth quarter Saturday night.
Then they turned it around when it mattered most.
Going to a 1-3-1 zone of its own, Deshler forced Sheffield into six fourth-quarter turnovers, most of those coming after the Bulldogs had taken a 2-point lead with 4:15 to play, and the Tigers escaped with a 72-69 second-round win in the TimesDaily Classic.
Deshler (2-2) advances to the semifinals to play Mars Hill on Monday at 8 p.m. at UNA’s Flowers Hall.
“We changed some things up defensively the last 4 minutes of the fourth quarter, gave them something different than they’d been seeing all night,” Deshler coach Brian Pounders said. “I think that kind of threw them off-kilter a little. We were able to get some stops and limit them to one shot. Unlike Tuesday, when we lost to them after being up by 10, this time we were able to pull one out.”
Deshler dominated the boards in the first half, using its rebounding advantage to limit Sheffield to 24 shots to the Tigers’ 41.
It led to a 39-27 Deshler advantage at the 6:24 mark of the third quarter.
With two of its three leading scorers hamstrung with foul trouble, Sheffield (3-2) chiseled away at the deficit, forcing eight Deshler turnovers in the third quarter and eventually taking a 54-52 lead on a pair of Shaq Carroll free throws with 7:02 to play.
It was the Bulldogs’ first lead since the 2:30 mark of the first quarter.
Sheffield led by two again with 4:15 to play on Hunter Danley’s fast-break layup, but Deshler countered with two key baskets by Thomas Gamble down the stretch while denying the Bulldogs a field goal for a 4:07 span.
Gamble hit a baseline runner to give Deshler a 63-62 lead with 2:12 to play and added a 3-point play, making a strong baseline drive and an ensuing foul shot.
“I just saw a little opening and went to the basket hard,” Gamble said. “We needed to get something going offensively there. We forced four turnovers in a row in our zone to kind of get the momentum back, but we needed to score.”
Gamble finished with a game-high 25 points. Ricardo Carter (14) and Brandon Creasy (11) also scored in double figures for Deshler.
Carroll scored 22, despite sitting the entire second quarter with two fouls. He finished with four fouls, while Simon Ridgeway scored 9 points and fouled out with 3:44 to play.
Danley had 14 points.
n Mars Hill 77, Muscle Shoals 66: Mars Hill (5-1) found its touch after a cold-shooting start and turned away two Muscle Shoals comeback bids to advance to the semifinals.
The Panthers missed their first six 3-point attempts but made 5 of their next 10. That powered a 24-5 run that put Mars Hill ahead 40-25 with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
“I guess we’re just going to keep shooting until it goes in or shoot ourselves out of a game,” Mars Hill coach Mike Mitchell said. “We’re capable of doing a lot of things well. We want to get to a point where we’re consistently moving the ball inside out. But we lived by the three and kept shooting it.”
Led by Debo Reeder, Muscle Shoals (0-1) cut its deficit to single digits twice.
Reeder finished with a game-high 35 points and sank eight 3-pointers, five of those coming in the second half and three in the fourth quarter.
The Trojans made it a 7-point game on Reeder’s basket with 2:13 left in the third quarter and again trailed by 9 after his 3-pointer with 26 seconds left in the game.
Mars Hill made a concerted effort to find Landon Willis more inside the second half. He scored 14 of his team-high 24 points after halftime, helping the Panthers push their lead back to 19 after Muscle Shoals’ first comeback bid and push through the second.
Joe Wilson added 17 points for Mars Hill. LaDamien Stanford finished with 13 for Muscle Shoals.
“We knew they were going to make runs,” said Trojans coach Jody Lanier, whose team had four practices under its belt since football season ended. “They are a good basketball team. We ,are some mistakes that you make early in the year. We had some missed defensive assignments and we turned it over too much. We will get those things corrected, but that comes with playing more.”
n Russellville 69, Shoals Christian 48: Leslie Dunstan scored 23 points in three quarters, leading Russellville (3-4) to a consolation-game win.
The post player had 14 before halftime, as the Golden Tigers took a 34-22 lead into intermission.
Jackson Smith added 13 points for Russellville.
Daniel Wood scored a team-high 15 for Shoals Christian, while Matthew Russ added 10.
Bryan App can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @bappster on Twitter.